Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Big Three - Cecil Taylor... Anthony Braxton... Ornette Coleman...

The days loom nearer: the 8th and 9th of July, respectively when Cecil Taylor, in partnership with Anthony Braxton, will be in concert at the newly-refurbished Festival Hall in London, followed by Ornette on the next night. So - here's Cecil Taylor, from the beginning almost: 1956. A surging read through Monk's 'Bemsha Swing.' The theme pops out almost surprisingly after a brief intro - Cecil plays Monk's tune fairly straight before heading off into his own space. This is Taylor right on the fault line between bop and things to come - bass and drums keep a fairly othodox swing going as he probes and tinkers with a varied palette - some delicate passages mixed with more violent dissonant chording - banging asymettric jumps across the registers. But the heritage is obvious - Monk's conceptions taken a few steps beyond and executed with a denser virtuoso technique filtered through a European harmonic world and somewhere back-wired into the blues. There is a fascinating review of a recent gig by Cecil T in New York here...

So to keep a loose theme rolling, here's Anthony Braxton with a trio in 1989. Tony Oxley at the drums – who will also be making up the numbers on the 8th of July, alongside William Parker. This is Braxton's take on 'All the things you are,' combined with 'The Angular Apron' and 'Composition 6A.' Opening on the old standard, an oblique run at the theme before Braxton spirals off into exhilarating flurries matched by Oxley's scattershot drums. The bass seems slightly distanced from these two at first, which gives this performance a widened spatiality, aided by the lack of piano on the session. Just over six minutes in and Adelhard Roidinger takes a flying fingered solo passage eventually joined by lightly pattering percussion and hoarse flutters from the saxophonist - edging now into deeper waters. Braxton switches to flute, varying the timbres. A very clean sound compared to his sax playing. The bass by now has become an equal partner in the three-way conversation. Slowing down with a switch to arco bass and clarinet played with much distorted granularity. Back to saxophone... Oxley letting off some sporadic deep bombs. The bass picks out a faster line in even notes and the temperature rises... twenty four minutes in and the saxophone is squawking and wrenching notes into hoarse vocalisations. Oxley takes a brief solo, cunningly dropping the volume until a long trilling note heralds the end of a long track that keeps the interest throughout and showcases Braxton's wide conceptual horizons and roots in older jazz...

When Ornette met Jackie... here is 'Strange as it seems,' from their album 'Old and New Gospel,' recorded in McLean plays long notes on the theme as Coleman skips round him with muted trumpet (which he played throughout this session). Settling into a steady groove as the alto takes the first solo. This is one of those rare Ornette dates with a piano included - Lamont Johnson. McLean preaches the blues over a rhythm from Higgins which combines a steady roll with more off-centre accents. Trumpet follows, a plaintive, delicate solo then piano - heavy chunks of block-chords with occasional interlacing runs - an odd solo. Alto returns and the trumpet continues its freedom dance around it... Fascinating...

Roll on July...

Cecil Taylor
Cecil Taylor (p) Buell Neidlinger (b) Dennis Charles (d)
Bemsha Swing
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Anthony Braxton
Anthony Braxton, clarinet, alto, soprano, sopranino and C-melody saxophones, flute (collective instrumentation for the album) Adelhard Roidinger (b) Tony Oxley (d)
All the things you are
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Ornette Coleman/Jackie McLean
Ornette Coleman Jackie McLean (as) Lamont Johnson (p) Scott Holt (b) Billie Higgins (d)
Strange as it seems
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3 comments:

Happy In Bag said...

Entire universes are contained in the Braxton piece. Thanks!

Rod... said...

...isn't that the truth! I never knew his work as well as I should have but in recent years have been slowly mining away at it. I saw him with one of his Ghost Trance units when he was last in England on the same bill as Cecil T, coincidentally - and he stole the night. So the upcoming gig with them playing together should be fascinating...

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